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Northern White Cedar

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Machining methods

Machining methods

Users of northern white cedar, one of the lightest of the softwoods, also find it among the most stable, especially when kiln-dried. However, the wood's brittleness, which results in splits, splinters, and tearout, requires some care in machining with sharp cutting edges.

  • Plane northern white cedar with a shallow pass, and joint it so that you remove 1/16" or less.
  • You won't have problems ripping this straight-grained wood if you feed it slowly.
  • Reduce splintering when crosscutting by using a fine-toothed crosscut blade.
  • Avoid tearout while routing across the grain by applying a backing board along the edge where the bit will exit.
  • Saw or rout thin stock slowly to avoid breakage.
  • Northern white cedar's lack of sticky pitch allows you to join it with little trouble using your choice of adhesives. Screws, though, require pilot holes, and should be noncorrosive aluminum, brass, or silicon bronze.
  • Nails also should be zinc-coated. And, use screws and nails about one-third longer than normally required so they won't pull out.
  • Exposure to weather will eventually turn the wood a silver-gray. Some people like the look, but it can turn out uneven. A clear protective finish will slow the graying process if occasionally recoated. Pigmented stain or paint best protects the wood from damaging ultraviolet rays.

Continued on page 6:  Carving comments


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